This is a significant statement by the IACHR that confirms the continued violation of rights and freedoms on the part of the government, rights that the government agreed to re-establish in the 2nd dialogue last March. An undeclared state of exception continues in Nicaragua. This same perspective is reflected in the statements by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations in their meetings in Geneva this week.
IACHR denounces the persistence of the repression and expresses its concern over the increase of harassment of human rights defenders and those released from jail in Nicaragua
[ see original Spanish at https://www.oas.org/es/cidh/prensa/comunicados/2019/220.asp ]
September 6, 2019
Washington, DC. The Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) denounces the persistence of repression in Nicaragua. In addition, it expresses its concern over the increase of harassment of human rights defenders, lawyers of people released from prison and/or who continue jailed for acts related to the protests begun on April 18, 2018.
Through their conventional and regulatory mechanisms, the IACHR continues receiving information about the persistence of the repression in Nicaragua. In this regard, on August 21st, the Special Rapporteur for Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) of the IACHR denounced the pattern of discrimination and threats of reprisals on the part of the State authorities against state workers critical of the Government. Likewise, on August 26th, human rights experts of the United Nations and the Special Rapporteur for the freedom of expression of the IACHR denounced systematic repression against the communications media and independent journalists in the country.
Within the framework of the closure of civic and democratic spaces, through the Special Mechanism for Followup for Nicaragua (MESENI), the IACHR also received troubling information about the intensification of harassment of human rights defenders and other collectives of lawyers in Nicaragua. On August 6th Leyla Prado, a lawyer for the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH) denounced death threats received through social networks from people aligned with the government. Those threats and the harassment have increased in the context of her conduct as the defense counsel for María Oviedo, a lawyer of the CPDH, criminalized since July 26th and declared guilty in a trial on August 29th for the crime of “obstruction of functions”. Later on August 9 IACHR was informed about the police surveillance of the installations of Acción Penal, a collective of ex prosecutors who are dedicated to the defense of “political prisoners”. On August 19th five defense attorneys were detained for several hours when they were putting up protest posters in Managua. On that same August 19th the lawyer Aura Alarcón – from the Unity of Legal Defense [Unidad de Defensa Jurídica] – had been assaulted and stripped of her belongings on the part of “Sandinista mobs”. According to information received, even though the events occurred in the presence of police agents, they did not stop the aggression; in addition, when she filed charges, Aura Alarcón was pointed out as a “coup lawyer” on the part of the police.
In this regard, the Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren, the Rapporteur for Defenders of Human Rights, pointed out that “the adverse context in which human rights defenders, as well as lawyers, carry out their work is symptomatic of the continuation of the crisis and the police state in the country.”
In the month of August MESENI also received testimony about the human rights situation of people released from prison, and the persistence of acts of harassment, threats, and aggressions against them. According to the testimony received, they are victims of ongoing surveillance by police agents and motorized civilians through constant questioning of their families members and neighbors, and remain in the immediate vicinity of their homes until early hours of the morning. Likewise, people released from jail are victims of threats and campaigns of stigmatization in social networks while being pointed out as “coup supporters”. As a consequence, some of them have to continually relocate to safe houses, or have decided to leave the country. In addition the IACHR warns about the continuation and normalization of a pattern of arbitrary detentions, for short periods of time, of these people. Some of these detentions have occurred at border posts or in the airport after the participation of some of these people in international events, according to the information received, for the purpose of intimidating them for their leadership within the context of the protests begun on April 18, 2018. On August 27th, civil society organizations reported that at least 30 people released from prison have been detained under this pattern.
The Commission reiterates once again that many of the people released from prison are kept in uncertainty due to the lack of information about their legal situation. In some cases, the criminal cases continue open, and their criminal records have not been expunged, or rather, when the Amnesty Law is applied, the cases are shelved without ordering their acquittal, which would have, among other effects, blocked the end of precautionary measures imposed and the return of assets seized. On August 26 the IACHR was informed of irregularities presented in the computer system of the Central Judicial Complex of Managua which prevented the lawyers access to information about the cases of the “political prisoners”. In the same context, the IACHR notes that the holding of public hearings continues to be restricted for independent communications media in the country for more than a year.
In this regard, the Commissioner Joel Hernández, Rapporteur for the Rights of Prisoners, highlighted that “in the framework of the Rule of Law, the judicial system should function as the first line of defense of human rights. For that reason, the fulfillment of the guarantees of impartiality and independence established in international law prove to be imperative.” He added that “in the Nicaraguan case, what we have documented continuously have been patterns of repression from the very bodies responsible for the administration of justice.”
Within the framework of the repression against people identified as opponents of the regime, during the month of August the IACHR became aware of the exile to Costa Rica of the mayor of Mulukukú, Apolonio Fargas, for the alleged take over of the installations of the Municipal Government and his home by police agents. Previously Mr. Apolonio Fargas has been detained for his participation in the social protests, and later freed by virtue of the amnesty law. On the other hand, on August 23rd the IACHR ordered the adoption of cautionary measures for the protection of Violeta Mercedes Granera, a member of the Blue and White Unity, on finding herself in a situation of risk in the framework of the current situation which the State of Nicaragua is undergoing.
According to publicly known information, on August 27th in the municipality of Wiwilí, the province of Jinotega, Mr. Francisco Blandón Herrera was murdered by shots perpetrated by a civilian on a motorcycle. In this regard, human rights organizations have said that this case was framed in the context of the escalation of violence in the interior part of the country against peasants and people identified as opponents of the Government. The Commission exhorts the Nicaraguan State to investigate with due diligence the circumstances around this event and other acts of violence in order to identify and punish the people responsible, and thus combat the impunity and prevent the repetition of similar deeds. At the same time, in the current environment of polarization, repression and stigmatization that persists in Nicaragua, the IACHR calls on the State to ensure the integrity and safety of peasants and people identified as opponents or critics of the Government.
The Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, Rapporteur for Nicaragua, reiterated: “from the Interamerican Commission, we once again call on the State of Nicaragua to cease the repression, and in particular to implement an appropriate process of truth, justice and reparation for the victims in accordance with international standards on matters of human rights”. The President of the IACHR, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, added: “ the elimination of the situation of impunity in Nicaragua and the recovery of trust in state institutions constitute some of the biggest principal challenges for the reestablishment of the Rule of Law.”
The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate emerges from the Charter of the OAS and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Interamerican Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region, and acts as a consultative body of the OAS on this matter. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS on an individual basis, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.